We all share our gardens with a multitude of other creatures. Some of them, such as birds, bees, and butterflies, I’m always glad to see, but others not so much.
Until five or six years ago I’d never seen a rabbit in my garden here in the middle of Ann Arbor, but now they’re everywhere. My wife says they’re cute and insists on calling them bunnies, but since they love to eat my crocus, larkspur, lilies, and other flowers, I pretty much hated them – until recently.
I was mowing our small backyard for the first time in maybe a month, and the grass was unusually long. I had gotten to the middle of the yard when I noticed a matted down clump of dry grass in the strip I’d just mowed. As I bent down to pick it up – it wiggled.
I jumped back in alarm, but then I cautiously pulled aside some of the grass and there, lying on its side, was a tiny rabbit. At first I was worried that I’d injured it, but it seemed unharmed, although no doubt traumatized by the mower roaring over it. I covered it back up as best as I could (I’m not a barbarian) and added some dry ferns to replace the protective grass I’d cut.
It seemed crazy that a rabbit would build its nest in the middle of a lawn, but later I read it actually makes sense because predators rarely venture there. I also learned that baby rabbits have virtually no scent, and that the mothers nurse their young for just a couple of minutes twice a day, keeping their distance the rest of the time so predators won’t be drawn by their adult scent.
I still wasn’t a rabbit lover, but the next day something happened that amazed me. I was watering some plants in the backyard when I noticed a squirrel heading out towards the nest. All of a sudden, a rabbit burst out of a nearby patch of daylilies and launched itself high in the air as if to jump on top of the intruder. The squirrel ran off a couple of yards, but that wasn’t enough for the mother rabbit. She leaped at it again, like a superhero swooping down from the sky, and the squirrel gave up and ran away.
As a man who loves his kids and grandkids more than anything, I admired that mother rabbit. For a moment I saw the world through her eyes and discovered that we have more in common than I thought. Of course I’ll still curse when I find my plants nibbled on, but I felt my heart grow a little bit bigger that day, and I’m grateful for that.